Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.
Showing posts with label Philippines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Philippines. Show all posts

Monday, June 21, 2010

Uniquely Mixed

Most people in the Philippines save the few Chinese that remains with their ancestral Chinese surname or a few indigenous that keeps their own too, have Spanish surnames. A close local friend told me it is because at some point in history, a law was passed during the Spanish occupation that everyone should adopt a family name for easy administrative purposes, thus the names were coined since then, with Spanish influence of course. I personally like their names where one name reminded me of a tycoon, another of astronomy while one about a venturing girl.

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Asian in looks, with mixtures of Chinese and Malay with some little Spanish, Filipinos may have features ranging from chinky eyes (as how the locals call for those eye slits that Chinese are famous for – yes like mine), to big round eyes similar to the Malays and mix of brown and yellow skin. One thing which is frequent here though is that most Filipinos have small frames and low in stature, I felt immediately at home here being of somewhat similar, I have to admit. In fact, many here commented I look like a Filipina, and most people I met will converse with me in Tagalog (their local national language) naturally for the first time and I had countless taxi drivers insisting I look deceptively like a local. Maybe that is how I get to blend in easily, something I am quite thankful for.

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“There are Starbucks everywhere here!” I exclaimed as we walk passed one at an obscure highway stop.

“Yes, because we Filipinos,” B started explaining “want to live the American dream”

There is no doubt that many, if not all, Filipinos that have the American dream, and why not? In land of America it seems that anything is possible, it is where dreams go and be realized. It was said that long time ago, Philippines nearly became a part of America, just that war happened and the rest as they say, is history. Nevertheless, I do meet a lot of Filipinos who their heart is strongly rooted in their own homeland, who would willingly stay and grow the country, but sadly there are even more that look at, live by and dream of America.

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As you can see, as how Carlos Celdran aptly puts it, Filipinos are a mixture of sorts - Spanish in name, Asian in looks but American at heart, just like its most famous dessert halo-halo which literarily means mix-mix.


This icy dessert had reminded me of our Malaysian Ais Kacang, minus the the kacang (no kidding), where there is shaved ice drenched in condensed/evaporated milk or just milk and sugar and then mix in with various ingredients of sorts. The usual suspects are red mung beans, sugar palm (kaong), coconut sport (macapuno), jackfruit strips, purple yam (ube) paste, crushed young rice (pinipig), leche flan and caramelized banana. Some even say that it is not complete without a dollop of ube (yam) ice cream, and only ube flavour for the authenticity!

As we can see even the ingredients are mixtures of culture of red mung beans from the Chinese, leche flan from the Spaniards and shaved ice from the Americans (source from Wikipedia). From my 100 days stay there, I learn that, as ironic as it may sound, being a mixture of sorts and of no distinct identity is what makes Filipinos unique. Just like how the mixture of halo-halo that sort of make you think that the dessert couldn’t make up its mind on what it wants to be that makes it so uniquely delicious.

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One of the best authentic original halo-halo I tried (with nearly all the ingredients mentioned above) turns out to be from one of the famous chain restaurants in the Philippines – Chow King. (first picture above)

Chow King


Another variation of halo-halo (picture above), stripped down to nearly bare naked of essentials – leche flan, macapuno (coconut sport) and caramelized banana, was truly a league of its own for its really smooth shaven iced doused in creamy sweet milk and its minimal critical ingredients.

Razon’s of Guagua

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Many Sides of Manila and It's Food

“Add 30 peso, heavy traffic!” said the taxi man.
“What?!?” I feign incredulity, this is not the first time I was asked of this.
“Yes ma’am, heavy traffic, taxi cannot make money” he continued.

Somehow this line make me relent, at times some taxi man are rude in asking for more money on top of their meter, but this one just tells me honestly why he needs it. Maybe it is just how frankly he tells me why he needs that extra. So I just said “OK!”

It is not always like this in Manila, I have many times met more kindness than I can ever have expected, once a taxi man said I can pay whatever amount I seem fit since the destination I went to was just so near, it caught me off guard, but I paid as how much I think is right with tips to boot.

I find that I actually enjoy tipping, after living a life of an ‘expat’ (some of them refer me as that though I don’t feel such as that word makes one think of extravagance life but trust me it is not),but still new habits are learnt when one is in a foreign land. I never tip when I was in Malaysia, I guess somehow it doesn’t seem like the culture to me then but as the saying goes, when in Rome, do what the Romans do. I have learnt here that not many are that well off, many earn their wages through sheer hard work and many of them are in the service industries. So if the restaurant does not charge for service (most of them do not), then I would leave some tips so that the servers could earn a more decent income. Besides, at most places the service is good, I am always greeted with a smile, and they are mostly attentive and genuine.

Food I must say though there are hits and misses, but who am I judge when I have only been to only so few of them, many good ones still uncovered I believe. In the metropolitan area which are dominated with few chain restaurants, it is quite hard to avoid them (being one who always think that chain restaurants are just a small step away from ‘fast food’), some did disappoint but many does surprises you with their good food and how they have maintained the quality despite the huge expansions and the some for even the longest time of existence. I guess this is just how Filipinos show their fidelity, if the food is good, they will keep returning to it religiously, thus allowing a selected few chain restaurants to boom across the metropolitan faster than you can say “Sarap!” (means delicious in Tagalog) This is after all the country where their home-grown fast food chain, Jollibee (just love the catchy name) out beats McDonald by a seriously high margin; at nearly every corner that you turn, you will see the happy bee with a chef hat smiling at you.

Nevertheless, I have in fact tried quite a number of local dishes, many times in various restaurants, just to find them differ slightly (sometimes widely) from one another, and then on to find my favourites among them. So let me introduce you to them slowly, each food that the locals here enjoy day in and day out and where to get the best of them and what varieties you may just find (mind you some or most of them would be coming from the said chain restaurants, I guess they are a chain for the same reason?). First let me start with a dish, as you all know me, the one who praises the pork relentlessly, would of course start with one which is the pork sisig.

Pork sisig is one of the well known pulutan (food to go with drink), where normally people order when they are out having a beer or some alcohol. It was said to reduce the impact of alcohol on the stomach and the name itself actually meant to be ‘taken in small quantity’. But as for me, I ordered it anyway as appetizer or main meal even, because I simply love it. There are two groups of pork sisig lovers, those who love the crunchy ones while those on the vice versa, for me I belong to the former group. I just love to have a crunch on my pork sisig but nevertheless I do enjoy the other types too. Pork sisig would serve better to those who don’t really know what it is made of, but just if you are brave enough read on now else skip to the next paragraph, you have been warned! It is made of chopped pig’s head (hair removed and tenderize and yes entire head!), then boiled and grilled/broiled then finally fried with chopped onions and served on a sizzling platter with vinegar and kalamansi juice (Asian lime).

Normally they like to serve the pork sisig at the last cooking part where they would ‘fry’ the mixture in front of you on the sizzling pan, even sometimes cracking a raw egg over and cook it along. Once served, you can then squeeze over the kalamansi  to taste yourself and voila, you would have a perfect crunchy pulutan or simply a good dish to  go along with your rice.

For my favourite crunchy pork sisig:
Krocodile Grill
Greenbelt 3
Esperanza St., Ayala Center
Makati City, Metro Manila


A cross between the crunchy and the soft, a lot of people's favourite:
Gerry's Grill
Glorietta 5
Level 2, Ayala Center,
Makati City, Metro Manila
(02)856-4443, (02)856-3544
Sunday to Thursday 11am - 12midnight
Friday and Saturday 11am - 2am

Other Branches

Another pork sisig with a twist, added with mayonnaise but nonetheless uniquely tasty:
Giligans ‘s Island Restaurant and Bar
Greenbelt 1
Esperanza St., Ayala Center
Makati City, Metro Manila
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